Overhauling public procurement should be a “massively-important project” © DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images
Overhauling public procurement should be a “massively-important project” © DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images

Why the procurement green paper 'fails to live up to promise'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
10 February 2021

The UK government’s green paper Transforming public procurement “fails to live up to its title”, according to an expert.

Colin Cram, a consultant who was a founding member of the government’s Central Unit on Purchasing – a forerunner of the Efficiency and Reform Group, said the proposals represented “incremental changes rather than transformation”.

In a blog for SM he said: “There are some significant omissions. Some of its proposals risk increasing bureaucracy for procurement organisations, private sector businesses and charities. Some are not practicable.”

Referencing the procurement errors that contributed to the Grenfell Tower disaster, in which 72 people died due to combustible cladding, Cram said: “There is nothing in the green paper that would prevent another Grenfell Tower happening.”

Cram said overhauling public procurement should be treated as a “massively-important project” with clear, measurable objectives. These should include deciding the key industries where investment can maximise economic benefit and what procurement strategies can help achieve such benefits.

He said some proposed reforms should be introduced quickly, including making it easier to bar poorly-performing suppliers and the extended use of dynamic purchasing systems. Cram said tribunals rather than courts should be used to adjudicate contracting disputes.

Cram said the proposed establishment of a new unit in the Cabinet Office to oversee procurement was a “weak substitute for dealing effectively with the major issue of the fragmentation of public sector procurement”.

“Such an approach has been tried for most of the past 35 years,” he said.

Cram has recommended a single centralised procurement hub serving the whole of central government and ideally the wider public sector. “It should be built on the back of existing major procurement and contracting organisations such as the Crown Commercial Service,” he said.

A public consultation on the green paper runs until 10 March 2021.

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